Help available for drought affected farmers

Recent rains have rejuvenated seasonal prospects for many, however there are significant areas, particularly on eastern EP where falls have been lighter and crop deterioration more advanced.

For these farmers chances of economic returns have all but disappeared and their biggest immediate challenge is stabilising soils and keeping themselves and their families in a positive frame of mind.

Two weeks ago I held a drought forum in Arno Bay and was ably assisted by a Centrelink officer and two Rural Financial Services Counsellors.

The forum was timely as changes to the Farm Household Allowance (FHA) program had just been announced. It became obvious many were not aware of the scope and quantity of assistance.

A number of other programs operate alongside the FHA now including an additional $12,000 grant provided in two payments.

There are allowances for a Farm Financial Assessment, for farm management skill development and others which in total present opportunities for farming couples to access more than $40k. Allowable net farm assets have been lifted from $2.5 million to $5m.

Perhaps the most helpful of all is access to free and confidential advice from a rural financial counsellor. The targeted programs are meritorious, but can be complex and the clear message was: do not self assess!

The RFCs are there to help, they are good at their job and have lots of customers which means, you are no orphan, there are many just like you facing tough times.

Significant assistance also exists in the form of Drought and Farm Investment Loans which had their individual borrowing limits lifted to $2m.

The facilities are now administered by the new Federal Rural Investment Corporation implemented to remove the inconsistency between the states.  In total the federal government has allocated $1.8 billion in drought relief.

Following the Arno bay meeting I contacted Viterra who are willing to supply seed, probably of mixed variety, to establish cover in paddocks. Please contact them or my office.

I had been fielding calls from people wanting to donate to SA farmers and contacted Buy a Bale which will now extend its footprint to SA.

ROWAN RAMSEY

Federal Member for Grey